SAN ANTONIO (CN) – A Mexican-American trade group says the governor of Sonora and his head of tourism accepted $300,000 to sponsor a binational conference, spent the money and then disinvited the group to the event. The Mexicans & Americans Thinking Together Foundation and its for-profit arm sued the State of Sonora, Gov. Eduardo Bours and his former tourism director Epifanio Pavlovich in Federal Court.
Mexicans & Americans Thinking Together (MATT) claims it expected to spend up to $1.3 million sponsoring the annual Border Governors Conference, slated for Puerto Penasco, Sonora, in 2007. It expected “access to political and business leaders attending the conference” in return.
The group says that Sonora’s sitting Gov. Eduardo Bours and Pavlovich solicited the prestigious sponsorship through a U.S. agent in San Antonio, promising “prominent recognition” at the conference and in the media promoting it.
But just hours after the group deposited an initial $300,000 payment in a business account set up for the conference, MATT says, it found that the account had been “drained and used for unauthorized purposes.”
Within less than a month the account was overdrawn, the group says. Then, weeks before the conference was to start, Bours “unilaterally canceled” MATT’s sponsorship and disinvited the group to the conference, which was held on Sept. 27 and 28, 2007, and was attended by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, according to the complaint.
MATT says Pavlovich and others made vague promises to return the group’s money, but that has not happened.
MATT sued the State of Sonora, Bours, Pavlovich and their alleged U.S. agent, Donald W. Walter Jr. It demands its $300,000 back, plus another $250,000 spent on “promotional expenses” preparing for the conference.
Bours, 52, has announced he will seek the PRI nomination for president of Mexico in 2012.
MATT is represented by Brett Schouest with Cox Smith & Matthews.